I was driving from my campus to my boss's office one day last week, when I passed by the Statue of Liberty.
Well, sort of.
If you've read my profile, you know I live in Texas, nowhere near the Statue of Liberty. In fact, I've never even seen her in person, though I've always wanted to. After this story, you'll understand why I want to see the real thing more than ever.
There's a mom-&-pop tax preparation business located on a street I take on this particular route, and both tax seasons I've lived here, this business has engaged in a marketing ploy that, in my opinion, is pretty senseless.
To attract customers who need their taxes done, they post a person out on the sidewalk in front of their office, wearing a costume of our Ellis Island landmark, complete with robe, hat, and torch.
The person in the costume waves energetically at motorists passing by, just hoping to attract that random taxpayer who will realize, "Oh my goodness! I haven't filed yet! And all my papers just happen to be right here handy in my car! And I have nowhere else to go right now! I'll just swing in here!"
Just my cynical side coming out. I guess I don't see how an "impulse purchase" marketing strategy could do much for this kind of business. But maybe I'm wrong. It's the second year I've seen it, so maybe it does work.
So, as I passed by the waving statue again this year, I thought the same thoughts about it, but noticed something just a little bit different than I had seen before. I thought I saw, and looked again to be sure I saw, a cloud of smoke billowing out of Lady Liberty's mouth.
I got closer and saw her bring her hand up to her face and take a long drag before waving at motorists again, this time with her cigarette clasped between her fingers in her grey-gloved hand.
Now, I don't know about you, but seeing the Statue of Liberty prancing around on Rancier Ave. in Killeen, TX, is already a bit of a stretch for me. But the cigarette just took the whole thing over the edge. A lame marketing strategy became something out of a low-rate comedy routine, just like that.
I'm not talking about whether or not people should smoke.
I'm talking about an image. I'm talking about impressions and associations. And ultimately, I'm talking about respect.
Who on earth would associate the Statue of Liberty, and all the grand ideals she stands for, with something as mundane as smoking a cigarette, or even munching on a sandwich or swigging on a soda, for that matter?
How could anyone, with any respect for this landmark, publicly bear her image and then treat it like it's no different than anything else you might wear?
How could anyone not realize that this behavior would be offensive to witnesses who associate this image with greater things? Or even if not offensive, at the very least unfitting or unbecoming?
How often do we forget to take seriously the names we wear and the images we show the world around us?
How quickly can our credibility be damaged or destroyed by carelessness with these things?
Verbal abuse from a counselor.
Profanity from a preacher.
Cruelty from a teacher.
Indifference from a doctor.
Corruption from a police officer.
Hatred from a parent.
I'm sure you see the pattern, and I'm sure you could think of other examples. These are deeds or traits that just don't fit the person they've been linked to, any more than a puff of cigarette smoke fits the Statue of Liberty. Someone responding to one of these images might ask, "And you call yourself a....?" Someone wearing that name just shouldn't act in that way.
If you take seriously the images just listed here, what about the name of Jesus Christ?
No, no one can be sinless. That's why we need Him.
But there is a big difference between a sincere soul wearing His name with awe and humility, and a careless one, wearing it like a cheap costume.
Are you wearing His name?
If so, how?